Another good practice from the 49ers today. Shaun Hill lined up with the first-team offense; Alex Smith with the second. The 49ers have been working quite a bit on their red-zone offense. When they first unveiled it during an OTA two weeks ago, it looked mighty ragged. But it's looked a lot better since.
Hill got first crack, running four plays between the 10 and 15 yard line.
- Overthrew Vernon Davis in the back of end zone.
- Quick pass to wideout Maurice Price on a crossing route in front of the end zone
- Reverse direction screen pass to Davis that was snuffed out by linebacker Parys Haralson
- Pass to Frank Gore that was just off his fingertips.
Smith ran four plays with the second-team offense, though there were some first teamers mixed in:
- Out pattern to Brandon Jones for about five yards.
- Quick sideline pass to Davis at the 5-yard line in front of cornerback Allen Rossum. Davis gets kudos from the coaching staff for the grab.
- Dart to Davis at the 2-yardline. He dives into the end zone for the touchdown.
- Draw play to Gore.
Ball skills seem to be one of the themes of the 49ers defense this year. It's the reason why Dashon Goldson is ahead of Mark Roman at free safety. And it's the reason why the team tapped Dre Bly at cornerback when Walt Harris went down. Bly exhibited those skills today when Hill launched a 40-yard wobbler to Dominique Zeigler. Bly made the finger-tip interception despite getting tangled with Zeigler as he lunged for the ball. The battle between Bly and Tarell Brown is shaping up to be a good one. Brown also has looked very good over the last few practices.
Michael Crabtree did a bit more sprinting today. And, yes, I'm sticking to the word "sprinting." He seemed to start out slowly but then revved up over 40 yards until he was running at what must have been close to all-out speed.
You've probably noticed that Zeigler, Price and Michael Spurlock have gotten plenty of work with Crabtree, Isaac Bruce and Jason Hill (hamstring) out of recent practices. All three have looked good in the practices. Spurlock is perhaps the most explosive. He made a move today - knifing between two defenders - that drew a chorus of oohs from the players watching from the sideline.
Nate Davis got a couple of repetitions today. His best pass was an over-the-middle dart to Vernon Davis. Is Davis-to-Davis something we'll be hearing in the future? You have to wonder ...
As I Twittered earlier this a.m., big, bad Alex Boone was back at practice but Pannel Egboh, the other rookie whose college graduation day had kept him out of OTAs, is not yet back. Boone filled in as the second-string right tackle today. ... Chilo Rachal also returned following the birth of his child.
Takeo Spikes (rest) and Jeff Ulbrich (under the weather) were back today but Mark Roman (illness) has not returned. Isaac Sopoaga also sat out the practice after injuring his left quad yesterday ... Rookie Curtis Taylor got a shot with the first-string defense playing strong safety. Taylor and Lewis Baker have been splitting that duty with Roman and Reggie Smith (groin) absent. Baker has looked good.
-- Matt Barrows